Social media influencers are fast becoming brands’ go-to option for generating trust and credibility among young consumers.
According to a new report by Fashion and Beauty Monitor in association with Econsultancy – both sister brands of Marketing Week – 57% of marketers and business owners in the fashion and beauty sectors use influencers as part of their marketing strategy, with an additional 21% looking to introduce this type of activity over the next 12 months.
The growing authority of online commentators and YouTube stars such as Zoella has given rise to this new breed of peer-to-peer brand ambassador.
The fact that 41% of respondents have been collaborating with online content creators for three years or more, in what is considered a maturing space, also suggests fashion and beauty firms are ahead of the curve in their use of influencer marketing.
Although the largest proportion of respondents from the two industries (42%) spend less than 10% of their overall budget on this type of activity, more than a quarter (26%) are investing 30% to 75% of their marketing budget on influencers.
There is no sign of investment slowing either, considering 59% of respondents expect their budget for influencer marketing to increase in 2016, with 11% stating the rise will be ‘significant’. Conversely, just 2% believe their budget will decrease over the next 12 months, again indicating how important influencer marketing will be to fashion and beauty brands in the future.
When looking at the type of role influencers play, product launches (27%) and content promotion and distribution (24%) are both deemed ‘critical’. However, Priyanka Dayal, content marketing manager at The Profile Group, of which Fashion and Beauty Monitor is part, warns brands against moving too quickly to exploit relationships between influencers and consumers as it is necessary to build audience trust and credibility around any collaboration before using influencers to try to boost sales.
“It’s important brands understand that influencers have the following they do because people trust them and their opinion,” she says. “[Brands] have got to understand who it is they are working with and what their strengths are in order to create a winning influencer strategy.”
Finding the right influencer
Finding the right influencer is a challenge for 73% of respondents. This is perhaps because 84% manually search social media platforms for a potential fit, while 73% rely on recommendations from friends and colleagues. The majority of respondents (78%) identify and manage the influencers they work with in-house.
Understanding an influencer’s endorsement history is also critical to the integrity of any arrangement, adds Dayal.
“If an influencer has worked with three of your competitors previously, it will make your brand seem less credible,” she says. “If they endorse four brands in the same area, consumers will question their [motives and] loyalty to your brand.”
This again reinforces the need for brands to develop a long-term plan with influencers to prevent them moving from one brand to the next.
As the prominence and potential impact of online content creators continues to rise, 82% of marketers say influencers expect to be paid for any brand association. Encouragingly, 60% of respondents believe influencers are mindful of collaborating only with brands that are relevant to their own area of expertise but just 38% say influencers expect to be involved in content creation, which is perhaps less promising from a credibility perspective.
When identifying an influencer, nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents appreciate that relevance to their subject area is more important than reach, which is an important distinction, says Dayal.
“If you’re trying to create brand awareness, speak to people who have a large reach, but if you want to talk to your consumers with a credible voice, you need to reach out to the correct people because you’ll get more coverage to the right audience.”
Playing by the rules
The rise of paid-for endorsements for brands from online influencers – coupled with the fact that some were not disclosing sponsored content – led the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) to issue its first guidance last year and an instructional video for vloggers and other
content creators entering commercial marketing deals with brands, which states that any monetary relationship must be made clear.
Proving return on investment from influencer partnerships is a concern for fashion and beauty marketers, as 73% of respondents agree it remains a challenge. However, most are positive about the results, particularly when influencers have been used for product launches and content distribution, since 49% claim both types of activity have been ‘highly effective’, with a further 28% suggesting they are ‘effective’.
It is, of course, not just fashion and beauty brands that are developing strong bonds with online influencers. Food and drink, tech, media and gaming brands have all had various levels of success by collaborating with content creators, and it is a trend that will continue as brands look to get more cut-through and a greater share of voice online.
- Download the full Fashion and Beauty Monitor report here